Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Aunt May's Chest

Ooo-er! No we haven't gone all school-boy smut. That is merely the (tongue in cheek) name for a rather lovely piece of heirloom furniture which you will meet in this post, along with some of its colleagues. The Aunt in question is one of Liz's long-dead relatives.

Liz's first pic to the 365 Project.
But ho for 'Imbolc', 1st of February, pagan first day of Spring, St Brigid's crosses and all that malarkey! We did actually make some crosses but readers of the previous post will know that the 1st of Feb was special to us this year as it was 'launch day' for Liz's Lisacul 365 photography project. We both wanted to get out there, take some pictures and fire them into the project's email in box  to make sure that the machinery was all working and that anyone enquiring of the website would see signs of activity. Liz took this rather stylish shot of her cross. I pinged in (rather predictably?) some livestock photos.

A predictable sheep?
The project is going to be an interesting one to manage because so far it has been set up with no deadlines for getting your pictures in - the team wanted no-one to be restricted by being too late or unable to get to an email by a certain date. The result is that while we know that the 'traffic' through the site since Liz's radio interview has been gratifyingly heavy we have no idea how many people are clicking away photographically out there. Worst case, I guess, would be someone thinking they would click away all through the project year and then have a big sort out and bang in their chosen 366 shots in Spring 2017! I suspect that some will wait for the first selections to be announced and to be posted to the site before thinking, "Hold up! Mine are better than those! I better get them sent in" Anyone fancy being on a 're-selection' group?

Deefer-dog enjoys the new cushion(s)
But what of this 'chest'? We have in our collection of furniture, a pair of small 'easy chairs' - bare wood frames with webbed backs and a simple cushion sitting on a webbed 'hammock'. They are my favourite chairs and the ones I use most despite the fact that they were free of charge and came with the Faversham house, having been stashed in one of the garden sheds as junk. Back then they had what were once rather nice tooled leather backs but had become perished and torn. We did not have a lot of furniture back then and we had a chum who was learning upholstery, so we asked her to take them on as a project. They came back in a nice shade of dark blue with nice restored padded cloth backs and matching covered cushions.

Auntie May's tiny dresser. It doesn't reach to my
shoulder height.
20 years later they were looking a bit well 'loved' with holes in the cushion covers, worn out beading, collapsed sponge blocks and badly stained fabric. Step forward Liz and the sewing machine for a first go at home upholstery. First though, we needed a trip to excellent local upholsterer and supplier of 'stuff', TX Upholstery of Carrick on Shannon where we were intrigued by them using a small, very quiet, gentle reciprocating saw to cut out our sponge blocks. Back home Liz already had some nice black and silver(y) fabric picked out and in fairly short order had knocked out 2 lovely cushion covers to go round the new foam. We are not sure what will happen about new backs for them as the material only just went the cushion covers, but they are lovely and comfortable once again and have quickly been re-adopted by the dogs.

One of a nearly matching bespoke pair of book cases
All this furniture-bashing got me to thinking that we have arrived at a lovely collection of pieces in this house of which we are very proud and with which we are very happy. Liz phrased it best when she said "It feels as though we have spent our whole lives accumulating the furniture for this house". Most of it is real wood, some stained but none painted, so it looks very right in this farmhouse environment. None of it was a priceless antique from some fancy-pants shop. None of it quite matches, so you'd never think we bought the house empty and THEN decided to furnish it. It came in fits and starts, some of it 'finds' in Kent (Chatham and Faversham), other stuff family heirlooms which we have only had since moving in, other stuff old-looking but actually new or bespoke built for us and finally the out-and-out new like the recent IKEA bookcases. That's probably true of everyone who has muddled along buying bits every now and then with no clear definite final vision.

Kitchen dresser with the 'other' alcove bookcase to its left
 (and the obligatory sleeping cat, of course).
My favourite pieces could well be the bespoke 'nearly matching' pair of book cases made to fit the unequal alcoves either side of our fireplace in Faversham, or possibly our wedding present kitchen dresser which came from a very close friend of the family up in Portmarnock (Co. Dublin). We also have a lovely oval mirror which came from my 'Nana'. I know that Liz has a great affection for the heirloom piece which gives this post its title, an old dresser which came to us via some time at Silverwoods.

Triumph of function over antique(y) charm. IKEA came to
the rescue when we just had TOO MANY books. 
I love that it is tiny, like a 2/3 scale model of our other dresser, reflecting that people (and houses) were much smaller back in the day. It does not even reach my shoulders. It is stained very dark, which we were once going to strip off and give it a lighter look, but a little way into the stripping/sanding we decided we liked the part-restored (distressed?) look and so it got a reprieve.We have another lovely old family piece, a chest of drawers upstairs. Somehow all these various items come together to make a comfortable, well furnished home. Now I must just evict a dog from my favourite chair.

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